Monday, November 27, 2006


Last Saturday, I revelled in the primitive-romanticism of open air natural dyeing: Dyepots simmering over an open fire. Blustery, November weather. The pungent aroma of black walnuts and marigolds. The magical transformation of petals, husks, and white wool into richly-colored skeins. Since the final simmering was done at night, it had a very dramatic, witchly feel -- stirring pots, prodding fires, while looking at the stars!

I followed the mordanting instructions from A Dyer's Garden. The dyeing itself, though, was done free-spirit-style, only roughly following the book's recipes (they didn't precisely fit to the state of my ingredients). I made up four dyebaths: black walnut, semi-fresh marigolds flowers, dried marigold petals, and dried calendula petals.

The latter two were smaller baths done in glass jars, while the former two were done in enamel pots. They simmered over the fire, between 180 and 220 degrees F, for a little over an hour. I tossed in the yarn, which is Knitpicks Bare, merino DK (unmordanted yarn for black walnut, mordanted for others). I simmered it for another hour at about 160, since the fire was dying down.

The next morning, I was quite eager to see what had developed, since I couldn't really see the colors the night before. I pulled out the yarns, squeezed out the excess dye, rinsed them in a little Eucalyn, and then dried them by the woodstove. Here's the results....

Left to right: black walnut, fresh marigold flowers, dried marigold petals, calendula, and undyed wool.

I didn't get nearly as dark a color from the black walnuts as I'd expected, especially given that that the dyebath was like the thicket, blackest ink imaginable. Perhaps it reached too high a temperature on the initial simmer? And the calendula turned out to have no dye at all - the dye in the pot looked pink because the liquid was deep red, but the final yarn is just dirty looking. On the whole, though I'm super happy - I like the light caramel color of the black walnut dye is lovely and warm, and the two marigolds are delightfully complex. I can't wait to start planning a garden full of dyeplants for next year...

1 comment:

textilejunkie said...

Those came out so nice. I especially love the black walnut - that's such a yummy brown.